A Journey to see the Northern Lights

We were minding our own business, finishing up plans for our Below the Rim trip one evening in late February, when I received a text from our Tucson friends. The invite was to come up with them to Fairbanks to see the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. Upon first blush we thought it to be too much however, as you can see from the thread below, we reconsidered. And the new adventure began

That fateful text thread.

Since we had reservations for camping, hiking and cycling in both Tucson and Scottsdale post Canyon trip, we thought we could just tack on the Alaska trip at the end. We would Fly from Phoenix to Fairbanks and return then drive home. We used air miles to help defray the costs and set the plan in motion. What an overestimation fantasy in our minds that was. We had forgot we were in our 70’s. Haha.

After the Below the Rim trip we were enjoying southern Arizona, camping, resting, cycling, hiking, however the temps were, on average, 12-15 degrees below our expected range. Bummer. We had thought it would be mid-high 70’s so we could thaw out before we ventured to the far north.

Cooking dinner outside

We underestimated how much energy it would take for the canyon trip and spent numerous days, more than expected, in recovery. The Alaska trip seemed daunting. I was questioning my decision to fly from Phoenix. Sraddha wondering if she will really have the energy to do a long flight and spend 5 days in subzero weather. 20-20 Hindsight often happens

Hiking in Catalina

After several days of contemplation, discussion, making decisions, then changing. We finally decided to change flights to depart from Sacramento and drive home. Again, in retrospect driving home 5 days earlier would have been in our best interests. Alas, we drove home on a forced march, 1000 miles in 2 days, overnighting in a lot behind the Barstow Walmart. 1 day before the flight.

We arrived around 5 Pm to find a nearby lightning strike the previous day, had killed phone and internet service in our house along with many of our neighbors. 🤨 Spent a lotta time the next day helping to fix the phones/dsl while also packing for Alaska trip. Sraddha elected to remain home instead of travel….Smart woman that Sraddha…

After a frantic dash to the gate in Sacramento dragging all my luggage, I settled in for flights thru Seattle and on to Fairbanks in central Alaska. The Flights were on time and I had a window seat which presented an amazing view of the mountains and glaciers of SE Alaska.

One day wevisited the ice sculptures which had been made a couple weeks ago. Starting to melt a little but still fun to see. Not as many as in pre-covid days as the festival is still recovering.

During the day we made several trips around the area. One day we went over to the University of Alaska and hiked some of the trails. Found some good Pub food too. Also, visited the Alaska Pipeline built back in 70’s when I lived in Seattle. The pipe, carrying warm raw oil, is 3 feet interior diameter. My neighbor used to install insulation on the line back then. And, of course, we had to visit the North Pole. Yes, there is a small town nearby called the North Pole. It has Santa’s workshop and the Santa Claus House. Being a rail fan and model railroader, I had to get a photo of me in front of some Alaska Railroad engines. Proof of life, etc

Never figured out where people surf around Fairbanks although they do surf down below Anchorage on the bore tide down below Anchorage in Turnagain Arm. Question: What Alaska town is known as the surfing capital of Alaska? Answer: Yakutat, located on the norther reaches of the inside passage. Even has a surf shop.

100 mile view of the Hayes Mountain range from our deck

By now you’re probably asking yourself where are the photos of the northern lights? Funny you should ask since this was the main purpose for the trip.

Truth is the lights were fantastic the night before I arrived. Even seen down in the lower 48. See this article written the day I arrived. However, the 4 nights I was there, they didn’t reveal themselves. We stayed out late after midnight and got up at 2 AM also. One night we drove up Murphy Dome to the top near an Air Force satellite station and saw nothing but clouds and snow. It was 3 degrees too. 🥶 The photos above are from my friends who did see them the night before I arrived.

On the day of my return flight we woke up to 4 inches of fresh snow, thankful Phil had a great automobile for the snow. No issues getting to the airport. A bit disappointed at not seeing the Aurora, however, I guess my email to Mother Nature didn’t make it out of her junk email box. What an interesting journey to the north country. I hope she installs spring soon.